Whenever there’s an explosion of intrigue at a football club – a manager under pressure, a player up in the dock – then a lot is talked about what’s going on ‘behind the scenes’ but, for the most part, we have no idea. The media speculates on what a manager is like merely from their pitch side demeanour for the most part, and a club’s finances are analysed on simply how much the previous transfer was (£80m for Ronaldo? Well there must be £80m to spend then?), rather than simple business economics.
So it’s little wonder that the man behind the masterminding of Liverpool’s triumphs in the 1970s and 80s has stayed relatively under the radar. Before his death in 2004, Geoff Twentyman was known as a legend in the red half of Merseyside but by few outside the footballing community. A staunchly workmanlike figure, Twentyman became Bill Shankly’s chief scout having worked with the Liverpool idol at Carlisle United and played for the Reds a handful of times before heading to Ireland to begin a short-lived management career.
In truth, the life of a scout is not a glamorous one. When author Simon Hughes talks of former Liverpool assistant Phil ‘that nose’ Thompson’s freezing cold trips to Zagreb to watch low-profile games in non-atmospheres there’s little sense of envy from even the most ardent footy nuts. Add to this Twentyman’s dedication to hunting out youngsters via midweek afternoon reserve games across the north of England and you realise the extent of his passion to create an unbeatable side.
Twentyman, here eulogised by Hughes who admits to never having met the former scout, played a significant part in creating the side of 1980s which became indominatable. The book opens with a piece from Alan Hansen describing his first encounters with Twentyman and being brought into Bob Paisley’s side for an almost unimaginable fee of £100,000 for a lad from Partick Thistle.
Other notable signings are almost too multitudinous to list but include the likes of Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Bruce Grobbelaar – if there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that Twentyman had an eye for a snazzy ‘tache. Another is that he had an arguably wise scouting policy, signing up just three players from south of the Watford Gap in his reign. He was convinced they would never settle on Merseyside, an interesting viewpoint given the parable between that and South American stars unable to settle in Europe.
Although it’s clear that Hughes has never met Twentyman and the book often lacks a little colour that only a personal touch can add, there’s plenty here to enjoy. The passion of the Anfield fans, and the resulting pressure on player procurement is an interesting facet of Twentyman’s reign, as is the continuity between ever-successful bosses.
Secret Diary of a Liverpool Scout provides an in-depth, insightful look at the seemingly inseperable link between man and club, and unearths some witty anecdotes along the way. It’s clear Twentyman had an eagle eye, even if he did say Trevor Francis was “worth nothing”.
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Tags: Alan Hansen, Bill Shankly, Bruce Grobbelaar, Graeme Souness, Kevin Keegan, Liverpool